Tag Archives: vampires

Release Blitz: Insatiable by Shannon West & T.S. McKinney

Insatiable | Shannon West & T.S. McKinney

Witches of the Big Easy #0.5

Release Date: September 26, 2019

Buy Link: mybook.to/Insatiable

~Also on Kindle Unlimited~

Add to Goodreads: http://bit.ly/InsatiableWestMcKinney

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Blurb

A Witches of the Big Easy prequel

Vampire Slayer Valen Beauchamp has an old score to settle with Julian Montague. It all started in the year 1733, when Valen narrowly survives an attack by centuries old vampire Julian Montague and even receives a minor bite when Julian’s teeth scrapes his skin before he manages to get away.

The venom from the bite almost kills him, and he soon discovers that Julian is searching for him everywhere to either finish what he’d started or kill him outright. Neither option is attractive to Valen, so he flees to the New World. As time passes and he doesn’t age, however, he comes to realize that the vampire had perhaps not destroyed him, but instead cursed him with an unwanted gift—immortality.

When he learns that victims of deadly vampire attacks are dying in large numbers in Paris, Julian’s home, Valen decides he’s tired of hiding from monsters and travels back to Paris to use his formidable Slayer skills to end this thing once and for all.

During a tense confrontation in the dark cellar of an opera house, Valen finds himself mesmerized, overpowered and seduced by Julian and finally succumbs to his charms. And even that wouldn’t be so bad if every vampire slayer in Europe weren’t out now to kill them both.

Valen is falling deeper and deeper in love with the vampire while trying to figure out if the vampire who bit him is one of the good guys or not, and if their love will mean his ultimate damnation or his salvation.

Witches of the Big Easy Series

Buy Hexxed (Witches of the Big Easy Book One) here: mybook.to/Hexxed

Buy Hunger (Witches of the Big Easy Book Two) here: mybook.to/Hunger

Buy Haunted (Witches of the Big Easy Book Three) here: mybook.to/HauntedSScott

Excerpt

It was the smell he noticed first. Not at all unpleasant, it reminded him of the old floral sachets his mother used in the dresser drawers, but with a hint of some exotic, Eastern spice, like cardamom thrown into the mix. Citrusy, spicy, and herbal all at the same time. He’d never smelled anything like it, and it made his mouth water, and his stomach clench.

A slight intake of breath made him realize someone was standing just opposite him in the dark.

Valen gasped—he couldn’t hold it back—and raised his stake to strike out blindly. He was immediately slammed back into the wall behind him, the stake knocked from his upraised hand and the wrist forced over his head and held in an iron grip. He tried desperately to pull away and couldn’t, as his body was held in place by another, but this one leaner, stronger and far more muscular. His other hand was brought up to join the first. It was then the vampire leaned in close, inhaled sharply and then whispered in his ear, his lips grazing the outer shell and making him shiver.

“Ah, you smell so sweet, boy. I’d like to taste you.” He put action to his words by nuzzling the side of Valen’s jaw.

“Get away from me,” Valen managed to say, forcing the words through his frozen lips.

“I don’t believe I will. At least not yet.”

“Please,” Valen whispered, begging now, his body trembling violently. He’d always wondered if he’d be brave when he met death, and now it was here in front of him, and he was almost unable to remain standing. If not for the strength of the body holding him against the wall, he might have fallen. He slightly turned his head. And as he did, his breath gusted over the vampire’s face and the creature drew back with a gasp.

“Who are you?”

“I-I’m Valen. I was just trying to protect my home. My family. Please.”

“Valen,” he said, as if trying it out on his tongue. “Valen.” He buried his face in Valen’s hair, which was shoulder length. He hadn’t bothered to tie it back when he sprang from bed so precipitously. The vampire took a piece of it in his fingers and brought it up to his nose to inhale deeply again.

“It’s like silk between my fingers. Beautiful, pale silk, the color of moonlight. Oh, Valen, I want to taste you.”

He pulled him closer and Valen suddenly felt warm hands under his clothing. He had no idea how that had happened so quickly, or even at all. One minute he was fully dressed, and the next, his clothing had been ripped off his body.  He was swept up and crushed against a muscular chest and the creature was murmuring wild words of passion in his ear. Somehow his clothing was in tatters around him and he was naked and shivering. All the while, the vampire was running his hands over Valen’s body, while managing to thrust his tongue into his mouth. Valen was overcome. He swooned for the first time in his life, and then suddenly everything changed.

He came back to himself and his senses were clouded with lust.  A feeling of completeness went over him, like something he’d been searching for his whole life had miraculously appeared. Sugar-coated words were being whispered in his ear, and his captor’s kisses tasted like something necessary to his very survival. This vampire’s lips weren’t cold at all, but warm and full. And his smell—Valen had never smelled anything so exotic and sweet. So absolutely delicious. He pressed his lips against the moist, full ones over his and then ground into them with a passion that surprised him and seemed to come out of nowhere. He had never been attracted to a man before. Never! He even heard himself whimpering. His captor sighed into the kiss and touched his tongue to Valen’s again while his big hands gently, maddeningly massaged the cheeks of his naked ass. Valen was electrified, filled with lust and passion. He’d never felt anything like this before, and he’d never before had this lightheaded, toe-curling compulsion to be ravished by his captor.

Eagerly, he thrust himself closer and caused the vampire to barely scrape his long fangs against the skin of his throat. When he felt the first drops of the burning venom, Valen made a sudden cry and jolted sharply, causing the vampire to sink his fangs into Valen’s skin hard enough to draw a thin tracing of blood. The venom from his fangs burned a trail of fire down Valen’s neck, and he threw back his head and screamed in pain. The vampire reeled back quickly to look down at what he’d done and seemed visibly upset. He started to pull Valen closer, but the door burst open beside him and Valen’s father surged in, brandishing a pitchfork. The vampire turned and caught it in his hand, twisting it away and tossing it to the ceiling to get lost among the rafters. He knocked Valen’s father away from the door and then gave Valen one last, longing look.

“I’ll be back for you,” he hissed and then he kissed the backs of Valen’s fingers and faded away into the mist and the foggy night.

About The Authors

T.S. McKinney 

I’m TS McKinney and love reading and writing gay romance!! My writing is all over the place (mostly because I write according to my mood). Sometimes I’m happy and my stories are cute and sassy. Unfortunately, I suffer from depression and those times comes shining through, as well.

Sometimes I’m nice to my characters and sometimes I’m mean (I apologize for those). I do paranormal (writing with Shannon West), suspense, BDSM (my favorite), and sports-themed books. Yes, that sounds crazy (cause I am) but there will be one thing you can always count on – a happy ending!! Too much sadness in my life to make my men not get their happy endings!

Social Media

Facebook: http://bit.ly/TSMcKinneyFB

FB Group: http://bit.ly/McKinneysFavs

Amazon: http://bit.ly/TSMcKinneyAmzn

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/TSMcKinneyGR

Bookbub: http://bit.ly/TSMcKinneyBB

Shannon West 

Shannon West lives with her husband, two crazy dogs, and two very spoiled cats in the south. She likes to travel and read and write pretty much constantly. Shannon loves writing MM erotic romance and loves to hear from her readers.

She is a 2013, 2014, 2015 and 2016 Rainbow Awards finalist, as well as a BookStrand Top 20 author for the last three years running. Her books have also been published in the French and Italian language, and she recently had one of her books translated into Japanese.

Social Media

Facebook: http://bit.ly/ShannonWestFB

Amazon: http://bit.ly/ShannonWestAmzn

Goodreads: http://bit.ly/ShannonWestGR

 

An extraordinary twist to the shifter genre from Garrett

67283455_2401506443270930_1027755549032185856_oFated Hearts by Garrett Leigh

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Garrett Leigh turns her considerable talent to paranormal romance and brings forth an extraordinary alternative to the usual fare of creatures that go bump in the night.

Here her shifters are a different entity to werewolves, vampires exist in covens and the Shadow Clan is something else entirely and sits above all other non-humans providing a sort of balance between conflicting wolf packs.

And both sets of creatures have a unique blend of the traditional animal/human hybrid but with enhanced abilities and a gentle thread of magic which ties them to the physical world around them.

Zio and Deven are polar opposites but their attraction bounces off the page as they’re thrown headlong into a situation thwart with danger.

Part action, part paranormal romance, part mystery adventure, this opener has all the hallmarks of Garrett at her finest.

There is superb world-building, there are real and painful consequences for choices made, there is a deep and abiding love which fights to conquer all obstacles thrown in its path and there are threads laid down for the wider narrative to continue on.

It ends with a blend of extreme happiness, some trepidation about where series arcs will go next, some sorrow, a continuing battle between the species and loads of hope for a changing future.

I seriously cannot wait to see where it goes next.

#ARC kindly received from the author in return for an honest and unbiased review.

View all my Goodreads reviews

Blog Tour: A Crown Of Iron & Silver by Hailey Turner

A Crown Of Iron & Silver by Hailey Turner

Soulbound III

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Release Date (Print & Ebook):  September 10, 2019

Length (Print & Ebook): 107,043

Buy Links:

 https://haileyturner.com/a-crown-of-iron-silver-03/

https://amzn.to/2HLsKt0

READ MY REVIEW

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Blurb

Never promise a life that isn’t yours to give.

New York City is decked out for the holidays, and Special Agent Patrick Collins is looking forward to a reunion with his old team when he gets assigned a new case. A human child is missing, and the changeling left in her place causes a prominent witch family to demand justice from the fae.

Meanwhile, continued harassment from the New York City god pack forces Jonothon de Vere to formally establish his own with Patrick. Doing so will mean a civil war within the were-creature community—a war they risk losing from the start without alliances. Making bargains with the fae is never wise, but Patrick and Jono have nothing to lose when a fae lord comes asking for their help.

The Summer Lady has been kidnapped from the Seelie Court, and if they can find her, Patrick and Jono will cement an alliance with the fae. But the clues to her disappearance are found in Tír na nÓg, and the Otherworld has never been kind to mortals.

Venturing past the veil, Patrick and Jono risk losing territory, time, and their very lives while searching for answers. Because the Queen of Air and Darkness knows they are coming—and the ruler of the Unseelie Court has an offer for them they can’t possibly refuse.

A Crown of Iron & Silver is a 107k word MM urban fantasy with a gay romantic subplot and a HFN ending. It is a direct sequel to All Souls Near & Nigh. Reading the prior books in the series would be helpful in enjoying this one.

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Excerpt

“Come on. Let’s go to bed.”

Patrick led him back into their bedroom, ignoring Jono’s huff of laughter when Patrick pushed him onto the bed. He shrugged out of his own jacket and stripped out of his sweater, tossing it aside. His dog tags were warm from body heat, even if he couldn’t feel where they rested on his scarred chest.

Jono watched Patrick undress the rest of the way, methodically getting rid of his weapons and clothes. He crawled onto the bed, pushing at Jono’s shoulders until he was lying down, with Patrick straddling his hips. Long fingers curled around his dog tags, tugging at the chain to pull him into a kiss that went from lazy to deep in the span of seconds.

Warm hands gripped Patrick’s hips, thumbs pressing against bone. Patrick bit down gently on Jono’s bottom lip before pulling away, dragging his mouth over the stubble along Jono’s jaw, to his throat.

“They drew first blood, and I don’t like that it was yours,” Patrick murmured against the skin stretched taut over Jono’s pulse.

He could feel it when Jono swallowed, and he tried his hardest to suck a bruise against Jono’s throat.

“Better mine than yours.”

“Fuck that.”

Blog Tour Exclusive Q&A with Hailey Turner

How do you do research for your books?

HT: A lot of reading! Especially for mythology. I have some books that I consult at home, sometimes I go to my local library, and I do a lot of online research.

Is writing your full-time career? Or would you like it to be?

HT: Writing is not my full-time career, and I’m one of those writers who really loves her day job, so I’m in no rush to try to make it a full-time career. Balancing two jobs can be tricky though, and some days I wish I only wrote full time! But I have no plans to do so at this moment.

Are you on social media and can your readers interact with you?

HT: I am on social media! I can mostly be found in my Facebook readers group, Hailey’s Hellions, where I post a lot of teasers and give updates on my books.

I have an Instagram account where half the pictures are book-related and the rest are my cats. I love chatting with readers.

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About The Author

Hailey Turner is a big city girl who spoils her cats rotten and has a demanding day job that she loves, but not as much as she loves writing. She’s been writing since she was a young child and enjoys reading almost as much as creating a new story.

Hailey loves stories with lots of action, gritty relationships, and an eventual HEA that satisfies the heart.

Social Media

Newsletter:  You can keep up with Hailey’s future projects by joining her newsletter, where you can instantly download several free short stories:  http://eepurl.com/cAEejL

Facebook Group:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/haileyshellions/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/haileyturnerwrites/

Facebook Profile:  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100014824811406

Bookbub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/hailey-turner

Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorHaileyTurner/

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/haileyturnerwriter/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16473068.Hailey_Turner

Website:  www.haileyturner.com

Giveaway

Win one of two back catalog ebooks by Hailey Turner!

Open Internationally. Must be 18 to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Release Blitz: A Crown Of Iron & Silver by Hailey Turner

A Crown Of Iron & Silver by Hailey Turner

Soulbound III

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Release Date (Print & Ebook):  September 10, 2019

Length (Print & Ebook): 107,043

Link:  https://haileyturner.com/a-crown-of-iron-silver-03/

https://amzn.to/2HLsKt0

Soulbound-3-FullSize.jpg

Blurb

Never promise a life that isn’t yours to give.

New York City is decked out for the holidays, and Special Agent Patrick Collins is looking forward to a reunion with his old team when he gets assigned a new case. A human child is missing, and the changeling left in her place causes a prominent witch family to demand justice from the fae.

Meanwhile, continued harassment from the New York City god pack forces Jonothon de Vere to formally establish his own with Patrick. Doing so will mean a civil war within the were-creature community—a war they risk losing from the start without alliances. Making bargains with the fae is never wise, but Patrick and Jono have nothing to lose when a fae lord comes asking for their help.

The Summer Lady has been kidnapped from the Seelie Court, and if they can find her, Patrick and Jono will cement an alliance with the fae. But the clues to her disappearance are found in Tír na nÓg, and the Otherworld has never been kind to mortals.

Venturing past the veil, Patrick and Jono risk losing territory, time, and their very lives while searching for answers. Because the Queen of Air and Darkness knows they are coming—and the ruler of the Unseelie Court has an offer for them they can’t possibly refuse.

A Crown of Iron & Silver is a 107k word MM urban fantasy with a gay romantic subplot and a HFN ending. It is a direct sequel to All Souls Near & Nigh. Reading the prior books in the series would be helpful in enjoying this one.

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Excerpt

“Park there,” Patrick said, pointing at a spot in front of a mansion that happened to be empty due to the fire hydrant at the curb.

“You want me to get bloody towed while I wait for you?” Jono asked in an aggravated voice, but he still parked where Patrick wanted.

“The Mustang has government plates.”

“Yeah, but I don’t have a badge.”

“I shouldn’t be long.” Patrick leaned across the console for a kiss Jono couldn’t deny him. “If anyone asks, tell them you’re waiting to pick me up for lunch.”

“It’d be more like brunch at this hour.”

Patrick rolled his eyes as he pulled on his gloves. “Are you still hungry? You had breakfast.”

“I made breakfast.”

“See if Wade left any snacks in the back seat.”

“Wade leaves wrappers, not food.” Jono turned off the engine and took the keys out of the ignition, not really bothered by the cold and the snow outside. “Go work. I’ll be here if you need me.”

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About The Author

Hailey Turner is a big city girl who spoils her cats rotten and has a demanding day job that she loves, but not as much as she loves writing. She’s been writing since she was a young child and enjoys reading almost as much as creating a new story.

Hailey loves stories with lots of action, gritty relationships, and an eventual HEA that satisfies the heart.

Social Media

Newsletter:  You can keep up with Hailey’s future projects by joining her newsletter, where you can instantly download several free short stories:  http://eepurl.com/cAEejL

Facebook Group:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/haileyshellions/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/haileyturnerwrites/

Facebook Profile:  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100014824811406

Bookbub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/hailey-turner

Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorHaileyTurner/

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/haileyturnerwriter/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16473068.Hailey_Turner

Website:  www.haileyturner.com

Giveaway

Win one of two back catalog ebooks by Hailey Turner!

Open Internationally. Must be 18 to enter.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Cover Reveal: Nightside by V.L. Locey

Nightside | V.L. Locey

An Erie Vampire Tale

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Release Date: October 23 2019

Cover DesignMeredith Russell

Length: 50,236 words

ADD TO GOODREADS

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Blurb

Being a new member of the undead sect has its ups and downs, something that newly embraced Akio Lee is finding out first hand. Being able to spend eternity with his beloved Vincente, the man who introduced him to life in the nightside, is a definite up. Having to sneak up and feed on strangers?

That’s one of the downsides, and something that Akio is finding difficult to swallow. But what other option is there for a recently wed vampire couple who need blood to survive?

Finding a new donor perhaps? One who comes into the lifestyle willingly, as Akio had done, and is open to the unique and sensual relationship that develops when three men have a blood bond. A man who can exist in both the nightside and the dayside worlds.

A man like Dalton Briggs, the tall, dark, and handsome caretaker of the manse Akio and Vincente now call home? Dalton seems to tick every box Akio and Vincente have: he’s comfortable around vampires, he’s obviously into men, he’s drop-dead gorgeous, and he’s human.

But will the outgoing handyman be willing to offer two vampires his vein, his body, his heart?

Erie Series

An Erie Collection – Universal Link

About The Author

Copy of Copy of Copy of Locey Logo_FB Profile Image

USA Today Bestselling Author V.L. Locey – Penning LGBT hockey romance that skates into sinful pleasures.

V.L. Locey loves worn jeans, yoga, belly laughs, walking, reading and writing lusty tales, Greek mythology, Torchwood and Doctor Who, the New York Rangers, comic books, and coffee. (Not necessarily in that order.) She shares her life with her husband, her daughter, one dog, two cats, a pair of geese, far too many chickens, and two steers.

When not writing spicy romances, she enjoys spending her day with her menagerie in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania with a cup of fresh java in one hand and a steamy romance novel in the other.

Facebook | Facebook Group | Twitter | Instagram | Pinterest

Giveaway

a Rafflecopter giveaway

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Cover Reveal: A Crown Of Iron & Silver by Hailey Turner

A Crown Of Iron & Silver | Hailey Turner

Soulbound III

Soulbound-3-FullSize.jpg

Release Date (Print & Ebook):  September 10, 2019

Length (Print & Ebook): 107,043

All buy links or pre-order links:  https://haileyturner.com/a-crown-of-iron-silver-03/

 Blurb

Never promise a life that isn’t yours to give.

New York City is decked out for the holidays, and Special Agent Patrick Collins is looking forward to a reunion with his old team when he gets assigned a new case. A human child is missing, and the changeling left in her place causes a prominent witch family to demand justice from the fae.

Meanwhile, continued harassment from the New York City god pack forces Jonothon de Vere to formally establish his own with Patrick. Doing so will mean a civil war within the werecreature community—a war they risk losing from the start without alliances. Making bargains with the fae is never wise, but Patrick and Jono have nothing to lose when a fae lord comes asking for their help.

The Summer Lady has been kidnapped from the Seelie Court, and if they can find her, Patrick and Jono will cement an alliance with the fae. But the clues to her disappearance are found in Tír na nÓg, and the Otherworld has never been kind to mortals.

Venturing past the veil, Patrick and Jono risk losing territory, time, and their very lives while searching for answers. Because the Queen of Air and Darkness knows they are coming—and the ruler of the Unseelie Court has an offer for them they can’t possibly refuse.

A Crown of Iron & Silver is a 107k word MM urban fantasy with a gay romantic subplot and a HFN ending. It is a direct sequel to All Souls Near & Nigh. Reading the first book in the series would be helpful in enjoying this one.

Exclusive Excerpt

“Come on. Let’s go to bed.”

Patrick led him back into their bedroom, ignoring Jono’s huff of laughter when Patrick pushed him onto the bed. He shrugged out of his own jacket and stripped out of his sweater, tossing it aside. His dog tags were warm from body heat, even if he couldn’t feel where they rested on his scarred chest.

Jono watched Patrick undress the rest of the way, methodically getting rid of his weapons and clothes. He crawled onto the bed, pushing at Jono’s shoulders until he was lying down, with Patrick straddling his hips. Long fingers curled around his dog tags, tugging at the chain to pull him into a kiss that went from lazy to deep in the span of seconds.

Warm hands gripped Patrick’s hips, thumbs pressing against bone. Patrick bit down gently on Jono’s bottom lip before pulling away, dragging his mouth over the stubble along Jono’s jaw, to his throat.

“They drew first blood, and I don’t like that it was yours,” Patrick murmured against the skin stretched taut over Jono’s pulse.

He could feel it when Jono swallowed, and he tried his hardest to suck a bruise against Jono’s throat.

“Better mine than yours.”

“Fuck that.”

About the Author

Hailey

Hailey Turner is a big city girl who spoils her cats rotten and has a demanding day job that she loves, but not as much as she loves writing. She’s been writing since she was a young child and enjoys reading almost as much as creating a new story. Hailey loves stories with lots of action, gritty relationships, and an eventual HEA that satisfies the heart.

Newsletter:  You can keep up with Hailey’s future projects by joining her newsletter, where you can instantly download several free short stories:  http://eepurl.com/cAEejL

Social Media

Facebook Group:  https://www.facebook.com/groups/haileyshellions/

Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/haileyturnerwrites/

Facebook Profile:  https://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100014824811406

Bookbub:  https://www.bookbub.com/authors/hailey-turner

Author Page:  https://www.facebook.com/AuthorHaileyTurner/

Pinterest:  https://www.pinterest.com/haileyturnerwriter/

Goodreads:  https://www.goodreads.com/author/show/16473068.Hailey_Turner

Website:  www.haileyturner.com

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New Release Blitz: The Grim Assistant by Jodi Hutchins

The Grim Assistant | Jodi Hutchins

Tales from the Grim

Publisher: NineStar Press

Release Date: August 5, 2019

Heat Level: 3 – Some Sex

Pairing: Female/Female

Length: 71,700

Buy Links:

NineStar Press | Amazon | Smashwords | Barnes & Noble

Add to Goodreads

Blurb

Postal carrier and amateur surfer, Samantha Diaz, lives an uncomplicated life. Well, other than helping her sister with childcare, crushing on her unavailable customer, Lauren Brennan, and catching as many waves as possible before hurricane season begins. Suffice to say, she isn’t looking for much more, but when Lauren invites her to a monthly game night at her house, Sam happily agrees.

When Sam sets out on an early morning surf, the last thing she expects to do is die, but a sudden thunderstorm thrashes offshore, creating a riptide that steals Sam’s life. She awakens to a snarky woman named Margo speaking cryptic nonsense.

Not only does she claim to be one of the many Grim Reapers, or Grims, in the world, Margo makes Sam an offer: she’ll bring Sam back from the dead, as long as she becomes Margo’s temporary assistant. Sam accepts but soon realizes the deal was too good to be true, and the consequences she faces may be worse than the death she dodged.

Excerpt

The Grim Assistant
Jodi Hutchins © 2019
All Rights Reserved

The planks of the boardwalk were hot against Samantha Diaz’s feet as she bounded up the stairs, surfboard tucked beneath her arm, water trickling over her shoulders. The calm waters and equally serene beach left her with only the early morning anglers standing out at the ocean’s edge, casting their lines along the jetty.

“Same time on Friday?” her best friend, Josh Keller, asked as he ambled up the stairs after her, his bushy blond hair stuck to his face and neck. A trill from a bicycle bell filled the air, coalescing with the call of a flock of seagulls harassing a group of teens munching on breakfast. The oily aroma of freshly fried doughnuts mixed with the scent of crisp saltwater as Sam took a deep breath.

She smiled broadly. “Absolutely.” Beads of seawater dripped down her dark brows, and she swept her hand across her forehead in a feeble attempt to dry it. The pair crossed the boardwalk, heading down the long ramp to the parking lot.

Reaching her Jeep, Sam tossed her board in the back and grabbed a towel, drying her face and ruffling her unruly crop of black hair. People flooded the tall staircase, beach tags fastened to their large bags overflowing with colorful shovels and towels. She grabbed a dry shirt, pulling it over her head to cover her bikini top before putting her wallet in the damp pocket of her board shorts. Josh stood staring at her. “Damn, what I would do to get a tan like yours,” he mumbled sheepishly.

Sam chuckled, noting the red tinge forming along his pale, freckled shoulders, and then glanced at her own tanned skin. “I don’t know, man, I’ll always be jealous of your freckles,” she joked, elbowing him in the arm. “You want to grab some breakfast?”

“Sure, why not?”

Sam and Josh followed the influx of people. She was determined she would get herself a fresh bagel before heading home for a shower and babysitting her nephew. Cyclists pedaled down the bicycle lane on the wood, and early morning joggers were swiftly being replaced by excited children heading to the beach or the waterpark. The tiny hole-in-the-wall bagel shop Sam frequented was set back beside one of two amusement parks on the boardwalk, and she stepped into the short line. Depending on what time she had to be in to work, Sam’s summer mornings always started the same if Josh was available. She didn’t surf without him by her side unless there were lifeguards present. The last thing she wanted was to get caught in a riptide and end up miles offshore.

The two moved into the queue of people, and Josh turned to her. “How’s it going with Katie?”

Sam’s stomach sank at the mention of her older sister, and she shrugged. “I don’t know. The divorce is official, but now it’s all parenting plan crap and custody issues. She’s stressed out.”

Josh gave her a sympathetic grimace, causing her to wonder if he regretted asking her the question. “Yikes.”

“Yeah. They had a meeting with her ex’s lawyer, and I don’t know how it went yet.”

“Hey, Sam,” a voice called from behind her. Sam whipped around as her friend, Lauren Brennan, stepped into the line where Sam was already standing in wait. Lauren’s long chestnut hair hung over her shoulders, her wide smile reaching her vibrant green eyes.

“Lauren.” Sam’s tone came out a lot more breathless than she intended. Josh must’ve noted the change in her demeanor, so he nudged her in the back with his elbow.

“They have the best pork roll egg and cheese sandwiches,” Lauren said, curling her lips upward, a delicate dimple surfacing as she smiled.

Sam nearly sighed with longing, her heart rate quickening, and she swallowed back her feelings. The blue sundress Lauren wore hugged her body, the color accentuating her lovely summer tan. She’s off limits.

“They sure do. Order anything good lately?” Sam agreed.

Nodding enthusiastically, Lauren said, “Actually, I did! I ordered this new lesson kit online and a few other things for the classroom.” Sam had been delivering Lauren’s mail since the science teacher moved to Ocean City from New Brunswick two years prior. “And a few new books. Speaking of books, how’d you like the one you borrowed?”

“I absolutely loved it. Is it just me or is my taste in books rubbing off on you?” Sam said. Josh sighed indignantly. Sam held in a retort while she waited for Lauren to reply. Lauren blushed, and the sight had Sam nearly swooning. “I have to say your taste has rubbed off on me. My true love will always be gritty literary fiction, but you’ve got me hooked on those dark fantasies now.”

“Hey, I forgot about that thing I have to do,” Josh interjected. When Sam gave him a puzzled smile, he continued, “You know, the thing? I’ll see you Friday.”

“Oh, all right. Aren’t you going to get breakfast?” Sam asked. He shook his head and waggled his eyebrows, head jerking toward Lauren. His gesture wasn’t as discreet as Sam preferred, but she didn’t believe Lauren noticed. She knew he was leaving because of her interaction with Lauren. Before she could say more, Josh moved out of the line and hurried toward the ramp leading to the sidewalk.

She moved forward in line, ordering her food and stepping aside while Lauren ordered hers. While they waited, Sam leaned against the railing. “I’ve got a new one I know you’d love,” she said.

“A dark fantasy? You’d better bring it by the next time you work. I ordered a bunch of stuff, so I should be seeing you sometime next week,” Lauren added, pulling her purse strap over her shoulder.

“Okay, I will. Maybe Boo will let me pet her this time,” Sam chuckled, referring to Lauren’s skittish cat. In the last two years, the cat only let Sam touch her four or five times.

“Don’t take it personally because she doesn’t even let Bethany pet her.” Yep, there was the pesky reminder of her unavailability. Sam laughed regardless of her feelings toward Lauren’s girlfriend. It wasn’t as though she didn’t like her for the sole reason of being with Lauren; Bethany and Sam had known each other in high school and the memories were anything but fond.

“Boo’s such a cutie. Maybe I’ll start bringing some cat treats again,” Sam offered. The young man behind the counter caught Sam’s attention and handed her the pork roll she ordered. “Thanks.” She grinned at Lauren, continuing their conversation. “That’s how I got Boo to let me close at first.”

“School starts on Wednesday, but you should come by one night and have a drink with us, maybe play some cards. I always try to plan a game night once a month, especially when school is back in session.” Lauren took her food from the man, then faced Sam as they moved out of the way of other customers.

“I’d love to,” Sam said honestly. Sam enjoyed Lauren’s friendship, despite having to tolerate Bethany in small doses. She and Bethany may have had their differences, but they were adults now.

“What about, say, next Saturday night? I’m heading to Newark this weekend for a family barbeque, but I’ll be home Tuesday.”

“Yeah, sounds perfect.”

They stood staring at each other for longer than etiquette warranted, triggering Sam to wonder if Lauren felt the same attraction as she did. She hastily dispelled the fleeting thought and smiled. She’s simply a friend and can’t be more. “Well, I’ll let you get on with your day. I’ve got babysitting duty with my nephew, anyway.”

“I’ll see you later this week, I’m sure. Don’t forget the book,” Lauren said. She turned, heading down the boardwalk. Lauren left, the sway of her hips causing her skirt to swish back and forth with each step, and once Lauren disappeared in the flowing crowd, Sam headed to her Jeep.

The drive back to her house was quick and she was fortunate she missed the tourist traffic. Although Ocean City, New Jersey, was a busy tourist spot during the summer, Sam couldn’t see herself living anywhere else. The tiny seaside town was home to her and her sister, the beach and the community far too important to leave behind and live in a larger city.

She parked her car on the side of the road, finding a spot relatively close to her sister’s little condo, and she ambled up the stairs, leaving her surfboard in the back of her Jeep. The steps leading to the porch creaked beneath her feet, the white paint peeling off the railing and the stucco face of the home. The three-bedroom condo was large enough for her sister and nephew to live in comfortably. Sam had been staying with Katie for a few weeks at a time to help with her nephew and to covertly keep an eye out for her sister’s mental health. The divorce was taking its toll on Katie, but Sam knew her sister would never ask for help.

“I’m glad you’re here. I’ve got to run and get gas before I head over to work,” Katie said as she bustled around the living room, grabbing a laundry basket full of clothing from the couch and tossing it on the kitchen counter. Already clad in blue scrubs, her black hair pulled back in a tight ponytail, Sam figured Katie must’ve been anxiously waiting for her to get there.

“Sorry. I stopped to grab some breakfast. Is the little man awake yet?”

Without glancing up from her task, Katie shook her head. Sam stopped, placing her keys on the island in the kitchen leading off the living room, and she really took in her sister’s appearance: red-rimmed eyes, wrinkled scrubs, head lowered.

“Katie.” Her sister finally met her gaze. “How’d the hearing go yesterday?”

Katie drew a breath and straightened. “Like crap. I don’t think we’re ever going to work out a parenting plan.”

“He didn’t agree to your terms?”

Katie scoffed, and her shoulders visibly slumped. “No. His lawyer told us he wanted more time on different days. Evidently, his schedule doesn’t work with what I offered,” she said, shaking her head and touching her fingers to her forehead. “At this rate, it’s going to go on into the new year.”

“He’s lucky you don’t fight for full custody, the fucking asshat.” Sam loathed her ex-brother-in-law for how he treated his sister and wasn’t shy about speaking her feelings toward him now the divorce was official.

Her sister shot her a reproachful glance before she headed to the refrigerator. Katie’s voice was low when she said, “Just because he and I didn’t work out doesn’t mean he’s a bad father. Ben has every right to know him and I don’t want to take his father away from him because John was unfaithful.” She threw a yogurt into her purse along with a package of granola before grabbing her keys from the counter. “I’ll see you tonight,” she said as she stepped out the front door.

Sam lounged on the couch, kicking her feet up on the coffee table as she closed her eyes. Her muscles were sore from surfing, and all she wanted was to rest her head before her nephew woke.

“Auntie Sam, Mama gone?” a little voice cut off her thoughts. Her five-year-old nephew came wandering down the hall, his little stuffed animal pig tucked under his arm, his free hand rubbing his face.

“Yeah, Mama had to go off to work. Do you want some breakfast?” Sam asked.

Ben eagerly bobbed his head.

Meet the Author

Jodi Hutchins is a healthcare professional by day and fanatical writer by night. They are also an avid reader, coffee connoisseur, helpless romantic, amateur artist, enthusiastic maker-upper of things, spouse, and parent.

The frequent rain of western Washington doesn’t stop Jodi and their wife from gallivanting through the next trailhead with their two children.

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